A group of clergymen has broken away from the established Anglican church in Australia to form the “Diocese of the Southern Cross.” Former Sydney Archbishop Glenn Davies is its first Bishop. The announcement was made at the recent Gafcon Australasia Conference held in Canberra.
What’s it all about? Well, to be clear, I’m not an authority on doings within the Anglican church. I’m just a parishioner. But I have enough understanding to have a view on the issue at stake. The issue is the authority and relevance of the Bible in today’s Christian world. Note I said ‘Christian world’. Clearly, if you are not a Christian the Christian Bible has no relevance in any world.
The belief of those who’ve broken away and also of GAFCON (the Global Anglican Futures Conference) to which they are aligned, is that the Bible is the sole, defining and immutable authority on which Christianity is based. It anchors the faith. It is the faith. It can’t be remodelled to suit prevailing fashions or lifestyles. It is tremendously inconvenient.
It’s fair to say that the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops, which he convenes, representing the established Church, is not as wedded to a literal reading of the books of the New Testament as is GAFCON. Hence GAFCON; established in 2008.
Trouble had been brewing, but the trigger for the breakaway seems to have been the decision at the (Australia-wide) General Synod in May concerning marriage. Extraordiny on its face, a majority could not be found in the House of Bishops to support a motion affirming that marriage was between a man and a woman. The vote was 12 to 10 against. The vote in the House of Clergy was 70 to 39 in favour and in the House of Laity 63 to 47 in favour.
A couple of things. First, even if the motion had secured a bare majority among bishops, the number among bishops, clergy and the laity who believe that marriage can be otherwise than between a man and a woman is surprising, to say the least. Remember these men and women aren’t plucked randomly from the street. They would call themselves practising Christians. Why else would they be attending the General Synod.
It is made clear in the Bible that marriage is between a man and woman. Take, as one example, this well-known passage from Matthew 19:4-5; in which Jesus draws on Genesis:
Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?
Moreover, it is made equally clear that homosexual sex is sinful. Consider, for example, Romans 1:26-27:
For this reason, God gave them up to dishonourable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.
Perspective is called for; no one should feel singled out. We’re all sinners. All fornication is sinful. Many of us are either past or present fornicators. But, as Christians, whatever the sin, we shouldn’t celebrate it or cause or cajole or force others to celebrate it. Or expect it to be blessed by the Church in promising to engage in it. Any questions?
This brings me to the second thing. From where exactly do those Christians who oppose the Bible on these matters get their scriptural guidance? From the UNHCR, from left-wing media, from Twitter or TikTok or LGBTQ activists? I simply don’t know. The Anglican Bishop of Ballarat was reported by The Australian as saying that the breakaway group were “people who read the Bible in a narrow fundamentalist way.” The Bishop captures the established view fairly well, I think. There’s a resonance with the legal debate around the US Constitution.
There are literalists-cum-originalists who try to stay as close as possible to the Constitution as written. Then there are those who regard the Constitution as a living document to be interpreted in light of the changing times and moods. The problem with the latter approach is that it gives rise to fancy. Thus the 14th Amendment can be tortuously construed as supporting rights to abortion and gay marriage, despite the Amendment being absolutely silent on both matters. So back to the Bible.
What to do about those inconvenient passages? Apparently, to avoid offending modern sensibilities, they are to be interpreted not narrowly but broadly; whatever that means. And the goal? Presumably, to turn Christianity into a kumbaya movement by softening Christ’s message; by allowing, even blessing, what is plainly proscribed. That process has no natural end. The very tenets of Christianity can be torn down piece by piece, inconvenient truth by inconvenient truth, until nothing is left.
When all is said and done, the Southern Cross Diocese and GAFCON have simply stayed true to the faith; as written in the Bible, not as some woke Anglican clergy would like it to be written. By not standing resolutely and bravely behind eternal Biblical truths, the established Church has created the schism, not those who’ve had the strength of character to break away.